Did you know cats are solitary, insular animals and prefer their own company? They sleep a lot and do most of their activity at dawn and dusk. They don’t like strangers but can live in social groups based on how much food is available. Related females tend to stay together whereas males will leave the group to roam. An understanding of these biological needs helps us to understand why cats may feel stressed in certain environments.
Examples of stress triggers for cats:
- Household changes such as a new baby, new partner or renovations.
- A neighbourhood cat bothering them.
- The addition of a new cat to the house
- Multiple cats in a household.
- Repeated punishment (such as spraying cat with water bottle when they do the wrong thing).
- Lack of or too much stimulation.
- Underlying medical conditions
- Confinement (such as being kept indoors).
Stress may cause a cat to:
- Spray urine or toilet outside of the litter tray.
- Move outside or to one specific area of the house
- Be aggressive
- Groom more or groom less (overgrooming to the point of hair loss is common).
- Vocalise more
- Change its appetite e.g. eating objects such as wool.
- Exercise more or less (e.g. pacing or becoming very depressed and quiet).
There are many ways you can reduce the stress your cat is experiencing. These can be divided into three methods.
- Make sure there is a litter tray for every cat in the house plus an extra. They should be separated and in private areas. Experiment with different types of litter and litter trays.
- Make sure each cat has a separate food bowl and water source.
- Provide vertical space for cats to escape to away from kids and other pets.
- Provide hiding spots for each of your cats.
- Where possible reduce or remove external stressors e.g. speak to your neighbours about their roaming cat or confine your cat to a part of the house where renovations are not occurring.
- Create a safe outdoor enclosure to give them more space.
- Use calm whispery voices when interacting with your cat.
- Use positive reinforcement to encourage calm behavior. If they like treats use them as rewards for laying down calmly or responding to your cues.
- Some cats respond positively to massage.
- Never use punishment as this will likely make the stress worse.
- Get your cat checked by a vet to rule out medical causes of the above symptoms. Pain is frequently misdiagnosed as stress so it’s important to distinguish the difference. The vet may choose to take a blood or a urine sample.
- Pheromone therapy should be implemented. For more information on Feliway products read here.
- Your vet may recommend medication for your cat to help reduce their stress levels.
If you think your cat is suffering from stress or would like more information please speak to our vets.